Sometimes, when you are interviewing for a position, employers may ask how much you would like to earn before they have actually offered you the job. At other times, you might be requested to state your salary requirements in a cover letter or application form. Avoid naming a figure! Remember, until they make an offer, there is nothing to negotiate. Naming a figure prematurely has risks: too high, and you might eliminate yourself as a candidate; too low, and you will cheat yourself of potential earnings.
Before the offer, your best answer is that your requirements are negotiable. You can also say something like this: “While salary is certainly important, my main goal is to develop my skills and expand my experience. I’m sure that we can agree on a fair salary once we’ve determined that I am a good fit for the job.”
Once you’ve been offered the position—or if you are absolutely required to provide a figure before the offer—it’s best to give a range rather than a specific amount. Do some research beforehand so that you have an idea of the general range for positions in your field and level of experience. Some great sources of salary information are NACE Salary Survey, Job Seekers Salary Calculator, salary.com, GlassDoor.com, Career OneStop, and people you know in the industry. A Career Center advisor can help you navigate those sources.
During negotiations, try one or more of the following tactics:
- Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the going rate: “My research has shown that information systems interns typically earn between $12-21, with an average of $15 an hour. Given my strong qualifications, I feel that a salary in the range of $15-$17 would be appropriate.”
- Turn the question back to the employer: “What would a person with my background, skills and qualifications typically earn in this position?”
- If they are inflexible on the salary, ask if any other aspects of the compensation package are negotiable. You may be able to lobby for more vacation, flexible hours, the possibility of performance-based bonuses and more. But remember, you should never try to negotiate before you have a firm offer.
If you’re approaching a job interview, we strongly recommend that you meet with a Career Center advisor to learn how to navigate this complex process.